Some more imminent shows, mostly of slightly skewed varieties of pop.
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Arctic Circle presents:
Daylight Music 226: Boy and a Balloon + Russell Swallow + Jack Hayter
Union Chapel, Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, England
Saturday 4th June 2016, 12.00pm – free/pay-what-you-like event (suggested donation: £5.00) – more information
“Under the moniker Boy And A Balloon, Alex Hall is a Hampshire born singer-songwriter. A London busker, and once a session guitar player (touring extensively for Motown legends Martha Reeves & The Vandellas) he now creates skewed indie music – reviving songwriting styles from the glory days, and fusing it with contemporary and chamber acoustic instruments.
“Dismantling the idea of cleanness, Alex accompanies his delicate vocals on his mainstay guitar (a bashed up three-quarter-size nylon-string version played through a StreetCube amplifier) to create glitchy and humanly imperfect timbre. Merged with a simplistic songwriting style to underpin and iron the creases out of the music, Boy And A Balloon attempts to create a new brand of idiosyncratic pop songs. It is a true and purposeful statement and philosophy that songwriting will shine through roughness. Taking major influence from musical icons from all his troubadour heroes of the ’40’s right up to the ’70s, Boy And A Balloon is about the innocent and inevitable loss of something human, precious and innocent – so apparent in today’s fast paced and overwhelming technological world.
“Calling on the classic grooves of James Bay, the storytelling of Tracey Chapman, and the gorgeous ambience of Howling, Russell Swallow‘s sound is brooding, confessional, indie. His songs and stories are driven by sensual imagery & sticky melodies, powered by rich tenor vocals, synths and driven guitars.
“Previously of the mighty Hefner (as well as Spongefinger and Dollboy), multi-instrumentalist Jack Hayter‘s beautiful, heartbroken music is full of folk-tinged dissonant woe. He’s a self-styled ‘singer and writer of no-tune showtunes’ and a ‘rotten-gutted, scorched-throated pedal steel machine’: a unique songwriter given time and freedom to blur the lines between the trad. folk of his influences and the London anxieties of his past with dirty fuzz, biting wit and of course, ‘the universal language of a drunkard’.”
(Jack usually appears at Daylight Music on acoustic guitar and voice: elsewhere on this blog there’s a detailed review of one such occasion.)
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When they emerged in London about five years ago, Weird Dreams perpetuated the well-worn image and substance of a literary indie band in a classic four-man mould. They jangled their guitars; they drew on ‘60s-tinted Beach Boys and girl-group inspired pop; then, citing a fascination with the underbelly cinema of David Lynch, they subverted that pop with dark and bitter lyrics about loss, misunderstanding and cruelties. To seal the deal, it emerged that they’d first been formed after a chance conversation in a retro clothes shop. Their debut album, ‘Choreography’, seemed tailor-made to appeal to the Edwyn Collins, Smiths and Belle & Sebastian fans. After that, it all seems to have gone wrong, though possibly wrong in the right kind of way. Dark hints at a four years of “loss, derealisation and the constructing of a new identity” suggests that the band hit multiple meltdowns.
Whatever happened, it’s seen the Weird Dreams base shifted from north-east London to Paris, left singer and songwriter Doran Edwards as the only remaining member, and altered the band’s sound from concise, short-story guitar power pop into something looser and more textured; more in keeping with their name; more electronic, decidedly psychedelic and definitely hypnagogic. Though you can still hear the skeletal outline of their previous musical identity, Weird Dreams’ current way of working cites unsettling photojournalism and avant-garde electronic composing as influences – alongside the grand synthtronic filmscapes of Ryuichi Sakamoto and the DIY radiophonic pop mistings of Broadcast. It sometimes sounds as if Doran might have kept in touch with his inner Lynch, but also turned up a little heat under his inner Splet.
Doran’s new approach also allows him to unhook from pithy storytelling and dip into a questing, introverted fantasy. One of the new songs, Calm, explores autogenic therapy – or to put it another way, the consciously-willed emptying-out of stress, body part by body part, suggesting a simultaneous emptying out of soul and identity, even as the music itself travels through phases of mood-shift from disassociation to rapture and rhythm. Another song, Heaven’s Hounds, revisits memories of 1980s synth pop and wraps them in a swathe of trickling dream pop guitar arpeggios and sampler gusts (the results echoing both the narcosis swoon of My Bloody Valentine and the unearthed-technology-meets-folk-reinventions of Eyeless In Gaza).
Performing as a Doran-fronted five-piece, the reinvented band are playing the following venues this month:
- The Prince Albert, 48 Trafalgar Street, Brighton, BN1 4ED, England, Tuesday 7th June 2016, 7.30pm – information
- The Castle Hotel, 66 Oldham Street, Manchester, M4 1LE, England, Wednesday 8th June 2016, 7.30pm – information
- Rough Trade East, 91 Brick Lane, Spitalfields, London, E1 6QL, England, Friday 10th June 2016, 6.30pm (instore) – information
* * * * * * * *If you’d prefer something a little more vivid and straightforward to fill your week, or just someone with dirtier jokes – in fact, if you happen to be in London and fancy a homburg-hatted cross between the dear-departed Victoria Wood and the still-very-much-in-yer-face Amanda Palmer, with a couple of twists of Lorraine Bowen and Marie Lloyd – then you could check out Tricity Vogue instead. The ukulele-toting queen of “thinking women’s burlesque cabaret” (and part-time tongue-in-cheek gender warrior) has an upcoming bar residency at London’s Wilton Music Hall which coincides or clashes with the Weird Dreams tour. You can expect her to deliver her own blues or jazz-inflected numbers about vampires or drunken penguins, list-songs about lady pirates and paeans to espresso coffee (which, naturally, accelerate into a distracted frenzy); and she’s a dab hand at nicking and recycling tunes (turning My Favourite Things into My Drag Queen Wet Dream’, or repurposing the ‘Doctor Who’ theme for a song about mundane parallel universes).
Tricity’s take on music hall proves that it’s an art form which, like Wilton’s itself, might need a careful patch-up, brush-up and infusion of new talent occasionally, but which doesn’t need that much refurbishment and alteration to remain fun. Plus, while she’s more than happy to deliver some snags along with the fluff. Alongside the kitschy daftness and double-entendres there are surprising delicate songs about lost origami, a sense of humour which ranges from cute to gallows (sometimes hitting both ends simultaneously, as in Pet Assassinator) and a set of ribald, pointed memoirs from an chequered love-life.